A New Year’s Resolution . . . Keep Southeast Texas Moving!
By Dade Phelan
Happy New Year! If you were like my family you spent some time traveling this Christmas Season. Despite fuel prices holding at seven year low, traffic congestion probably prevented you from fully enjoying the once open roads of Texas. Fortunately, your Texas Legislature made transportation a priority and found solutions without new taxes, fees or debt. The 2016-17 budget ends all diversions of the State Highway Fund. So going forward all money in that fund will pay for transportation instead of other state programs. The appropriation bill also increased transportation funding by $1.3 billion over two years. The added infrastructure investments will also make future mobility safer while increasing transparency.
The following is a synopsis of the state’s two most important policy changes as well as a list of local infrastructure improvements.
- House Bill 20 – Enhances the accountability, objectivity, and transparency of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
- Requires TxDOT to develop a performance-based planning and programming process that would allow the legislature to assess how well TxDOT is achieving stated goals.
- Requires the Transportation Commission to establish a scoring system to prioritize projects seeking state funding.
- Establishes temporary House and Senate select committees to provide oversight as the provisions of the bill are implemented.
- Senate Joint Resolution 5 – Constitutional Amendment approved by voters in November 2015 that dedicates a portion of general sales tax revenue to the State Highway Fund.
- Dedicates $2.5 billion of the state’s sales & use tax revenue to transportation, beginning in 2018.
- Dedicates 35% of excess vehicle sales & use tax revenue (over $5 billion) to transportation, beginning in 2020. (est. $500 million in year one)
- Prohibits any of these new transportation dollars from being used for toll road projects.
- The state needs a predictable, dedicated revenue source that allows for future planning to address the state’s infrastructure demands. SJR 5 provides a consistent and reliable source of funding for transportation projects in the state without raising taxes or fees.
The 2016 local transportation projects for Orange County provided through legislative appropriations as well as 2013’s Proposition One are as follows:
- IH10 from FM 1442 to .54 miles east of FM 3247 – Widen existing lanes from four to six lanes.
- FM105 from UP railroad to 6 miles south of IH10 – Add shoulders.
- FM1130 from FM 1136 to 10.7 miles southeast – Add safety treat fixed objects.
- FM 1136 from FM 1442 to IH10 – Add safety treat fixed objects.
- Cow Bayou Bridge at East Roundbunch Road – Rehabilitate bridge and approaches.
TxDOT will continue its various ongoing projects in Orange County including the rebuilding of the IH10 Neches River, painting of the Rainbow Bridge, the rebuilding of IH10 from Adams Bayou to the state line and upgrading the rail system within the Port of Orange.
With the population of the state expected to double by 2050, we must have an aggressive and efficient transportation plan in place to ensure the Texas of tomorrow will have its all of its mobility needs met.
It is honor to serve the citizens of Southeast Texas. If I may ever be of assistance please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 512.463.0706 or 409.745.2777.
God Bless you all and God Bless Texas,
Dade Phelan is Texas House Member Representative for District 21